Price upside in dry spud year

Potato supply drops as farmers struggle to grow crops on little water allocation

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DRY: Shane Moar with his spring potato crop at Rennie. The Moars will only produce a third of their usual spring crop due to lack of water allocations. Photo by Rachael Webb.

DRY: Shane Moar with his spring potato crop at Rennie. The Moars will only produce a third of their usual spring crop due to lack of water allocations. Photo by Rachael Webb.

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Vegetable growers not eligible for water infrastructure rebate.

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POTATO prices have risen sharply in some sections of the fresh market on the back of falling supply as many growers across NSW struggle to get a crop in due to drought, low water allocations and high water prices.

Chris Cope of Sydney Produce Surveyors said prices for 20 kilograms of large, washed whites had gone from around $30, to $45 and could go higher into summer.

"The drought has just reduced the ability for growers to produce the quality and quantity we usually get," Mr Cope said.

Some processing companies have also raised contract prices as an incentive for growers to keep producing, despite the challenges.

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Many of the state's potato growers are located in the Southern Basin.

The Murray region contributed 57pc of the NSW potatoes for the processing sector and the Riverina grew 73pc of the state's potatoes for the fresh market.

Geoff Moar has been growing potatoes near Oaklands in the Southern Riverina since 1989 and now farms with his son Shane.

The Moars, who received some increases to their contracted prices, usually put in three 50-hectare pivot circles of potatoes, but this spring they have only been able to plant one, which is on a property at Rennie, 20 kilometres away.

"We bought a property at Rennie 10 years ago, during the last drought, because it has groundwater," Mr Moar said.

Mr Moar said they had spent more than $200,000 installing a bore and pumping equipment at the property to enable them to water their crop.

"This crop of potatoes will be solely grown on bore water," Mr Moar said.

"Our general security allocation on the Murray is at zero per cent and you can't make any sort of profit margin if you rely on buying temporary water.

"I'm hoping there's going to be a big turn around with both rainfall and the water sharing plans. We need to see problems from the Murray Darling Basin Plan rectified."

No gov water infrastructure rebate for veggie growers

UNLIKE other agricultural sectors, potato growers installing new bores or dams to compensate for low allocations will not have any of the costs covered by the federal government, vegetable growers not eligible for the On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate.

The rebate allows for growers to claim 25 per cent of water infrastructure expenses, up to $25,000.

Ausveg national public affairs manager, Tyson Cattle, said the rebate had recently been extended to permanent plantings to help fruit and nut industries, but vegetable growers were still left out.

"We've raised that with (Agricultural Minister) Mr Littleproud's office because vegetable growers are in the same boat, they're hurting," Mr Cattle said.

Central Tablelands potato grower, Brenden May said multiple dry periods in his region had made it hard to continue on.

"The last two years have been very, very dry so the crops are virtually non-existent," Mr May said.

"I put in 12 hectares last summer, planted 60 tonnes and dug 60 tonnes so it was pretty fruitless.

"I could get a bore down here and get reasonable water, but there's so much red tape to work your way through and it's so expensive.

"It's all a gamble, if you do nothing you get nothing, if you do something and still get nothing you get less than nothing."

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